The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen

The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen

A Horror Book Review By Jim Mcleod

For those who are casual horror fiction fans, Gothic tales can be a stumbling block. Accustomed to quick scares and rapid bloodletting, many people can struggle with the complex and subtle nuances of gothic novels. Those who are more used to the in-your-face horror execution often find the restrained method of eliciting scares to be a long and boring journey. This is unfortunate because the gothic sub-genre of horror is full of wonderfully atmospheric and chilling stories that may require a more restrained way of reading but nevertheless offer a deeply satisfying and nerve-wracking experience.

Many people also feel that the Gothic novel is stuck in the past, relying on old storytelling techniques, tropes and the over reliance on the wily, windy moors. I’ll admit I cannot think of Gothic stories without that famous Kate Bush song playing in my brain. This assumption by many is disappointing as some truly excellent modern examples of gothic fiction cleverly play with the reader’s expectations to deliver a satisfying and chilling read.

The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen is one such novel. Yes, our protagonist is a young woman who finds herself metaphorically trapped in a desolate and isolated region filled with dark, ominous clouds and more than enough lashings of rain to make any place feel like a bleak house or to make Melmoth wish he had brought an umbrella. And yes, the Island in question is filled with odd, secretive characters who hide their true intentions from our protagonist, and yes, we have a crumbling building at the heart of the story, but, and this is a huge but, Christa Carmen is clearly well aware of these tropes, and throughout the length of this most gothic of gothic stories, cleverly plays with our expectations of these tropes to deliver a deeply satisfying, modern and at times, genre referential tale that alluringly plays with the rule book.

Told from a dual narrative perspective, The Daughters of Block Island wastes no time dropping the reader firmly in the middle of a gothic horror story. Carmen creatively weaves this dual narrative into a twisted tapestry that would sit proudly on the walls of the mansions of the genre’s finest. Beautifully slow-burning with dashes of pure terror dropped expertly within the story, Carmen has created a genuinely modern gothic horror novel that never shies away from tackling some heavy subjects such as mental health and the horrors of addiction. What makes this novel so special is not just Carmen’s expressive writing style that drapes the reader in a velvet shroud of dark secrets; it is Carmen’s ability to subvert the dogma of this type of novel. With a protagonist who is self-aware about being in the midst of a gothic story, to the subtle and, at times, overt caricatural twisting of gothic tropes, that thankfully never cross over into full-on comedic quips, The Daughters of Block Island breathes new life into this genre.

With powerful characters and a pacing that is as smooth as the finest cognac, The Daughters of Block Island is the perfect fireside read for these dark and cold nights.

The Daughters of Block Island  by Christa Carmen

The Daughters of Block Island by Christa Carmen

In this ingenious and subversive twist on the classic gothic novel, the mysterious past of an island mansion lures two sisters into a spiderweb of scandal, secrets, and murder.

Two sisters, strangers since birth yet bound by family secrets, are caught up in a century-old mystery on an isolated island.

After arriving on Block Island to find her birth mother, Blake Bronson becomes convinced she’s the heroine of a gothic novel―the kind that allowed her intermittent escape from a traumatic childhood. How else to explain the torrential rain, the salt-worn mansion known as White Hall, and the restless ghost purported to haunt its halls? But before Blake can discern the novel’s ending, she’s found dead, murdered in a claw-foot tub. The proprietress of White Hall stands accused.

Summoned by a letter sent from Blake before she died, Thalia Mills returns to the island she swore she’d left for good. She finds that Blake wasn’t the first to die at White Hall under suspicious circumstances. Thalia must uncover the real reason for Blake’s demise before the forces conspiring to keep Block Island’s secrets dead and buried rise up to consume her too

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  • Jim Mcleod

    Jim "The Don" Mcleod has been reading horror for over 35 years, and reviewing horror for over 16 years. When he is not spending his time promoting the horror genre, he is either annoying his family or mucking about with his two dogs Casper and Molly.

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